Residents of Muslim-dominated areas in Gorakhpur city have similar stories to tell about Friday, December 20, when policemen allegedly entered their homes, hurled abuses at everyone, including women and children, broke their doors and beat up whoever was around. Several houses The Indian Express visited had broken doors.
Nasir, 24, who lives in Ismailpur under Kotwali police station is standing outside his house with a plaster on his right hand and injury marks on his legs. “I am uneducated. I don’t know about the citizenship issue. I was standing outside my house when police came. They asked me what I am doing outside, I didn’t reply out of fear. They then beat me up with lathis,” alleges Nasir, an electrician.
His neighbour Rizwan alleges that police just beat up whoever they found. “He is innocent. He was not arrested. This means he was beaten up just because he is from this area,” he says.
A few houses away, a 32-year-old woman, whose husband was booked and arrested under Section 144, says he has not been able to go to work since he was released on bail. “He is badly injured and is not talking to anyone. He says he was beaten up by 7-8 policemen. They kept him in jail for seven days. He can’t work because of the injuries,” says the woman, who has a seven-year-old daughter and lives in Ismailpur.
Her husband is a daily-wage labourer who refused to talk, citing the “trauma”. “He won’t be able to talk,” the woman says, requesting anonymity out of “fear of the police”.
The woman shows how bricks are holding their broken door in place. “They broke the door. If you go around, you will see those who have money have got their doors fixed, but those who don’t have put bricks behind the door to shield themselves from the cold,” she says.
Local residents in nearby Askarganj allege that policemen climbed on to the terraces of each house to look for the men and when they could not find them, they hurled abuses at the women and threatened them.
A 50-year-old woman, who has a family of eight, shows how her legs have turned blue, allegedly due to lathicharge by police. “They were beating up boys in front of my house when I intervened. I thought if I intervene, they will stop, but they did not. They hit me too. At least five policemen beat me up,” she alleges.
Refusing to tell her name, she says, “We can’t take on the police. We are very poor.”
About 500 m from her house is Kotwali police station. Opposite to it is a centre run by an NGO to provide employment to local women. Neighbours allege that policemen threw stones at the house where the centre is run.
“The protest did not reach the police station. Then who threw stones at my house?” says Heena Siddiqui, who runs the NGO Mahila Samridhi.
“They have booked my son under 21 sections of IPC, including attempt to murder charges. There were 75 women in the centre that day, most of them Hindu. They are willing to testify that my son was at the centre when the incident took place. He is educated and is preparing for competitive examinations. Why will he indulge in rioting,” asks Heena, pointing at shattered windows of her house.
“We always thought we were safe because we lived in front of the police station. Who knew police can be so unfair,” says Heena. Her son Saif has been named in the FIR with 36 named and 700-800 unnamed people. The accused have been booked under 21 IPC sections, including 307 (attempt to murder) and 148 (rioting). Saif is absconding.
Circle Officer Virendra Pratap Singh told The Indian Express that all accused named in the FIR have been booked after looking at CCTV footage.
A 48-year-old man who lives in neighbouring Khoonipur, also under Kotwali police station, recalls how he was going to the nearby mosque when police allegedly beat him up. “They told me to go home. They pulled my beard and hurled communal abuses,” alleges the father of three sons and a daughter.
A 32-year-old resident of Askarganj, who works in the IT sector, says he was detained and sent to jail for violation of Section 144. He alleges police treated them like hardcore criminals. “I was kept at Kotwali police station for a day and was then shifted to another police station. They did not let me wear footwear till I was at Kotwali police station. They beat me up brutally there. I don’t think I can forget those days and nights,” says the man, who has not been booked under any IPC section. He claims he was at office when the protest at Jama Masjid in the area took place.
Circle Officer Singh said a protest march was held from Jama Masjid to Nakhas Chowk. “The protest was initially not very big. But it grew and thousands of people then vandalism and misbehaved with policemen. They were controlled and stopped at Nakhas Chowk using force. Sixteen policemen have sustained injuries in stone-pelting.”
Gorakhpur SSP Sunil Gupta said any alleged excesses will be probed if police receives a complaint. “We have not received any complaint till now. If we do, we will probe… Those who are innocent should not be scared. It is my job to rectify mistakes, if any, made by my junior officers,” Gupta told The Indian Express.
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